Scrap Soup: Not All Waste is Trash

Hey Everyone! I'm Cindy Larsen-Arocha, co-founder (along with my cute mom, Dee) and manager of EcoMountain Home Store. Just like my mom, I'm incredibly passionate about eco-friendly living, and one of the areas I focus on is clean-eating. My passion is cooking... I love is showing people how to eat healthy and organic in a way that's delicious, affordable, and with as little waste as possible. That's why I'm excited to be sharing a secret that I use nearly every single week in my house - Scrap Soup! 

When I was growing up, my mom and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen making things from scratch. She’s a huge gardener, so we'd take things like our fresh cucumbers and make pickles, or can homegrown tomatoes for spaghetti sauce. I also remember using up almost every part of the things we’d buy or grow, which really left an impact on me as an adult. A couple years ago, I opened a boutique catering company as an outlet for my cooking passion. As we developed client menus, I realized just how many pounds of food scraps we were accumulating. I remembered how my mom would compost her kitchen scraps, and how she would say those scraps were not trash - they were something special that could still be used. I knew I had to treat our scraps just as special as my mom's. But we didn't have a big compost pile out the back of our kitchen, and my husband and I lived in a downtown loft with absolutely no place to put one. So, I looked at my already washed, cleaned, chopped scraps and thought, "This is perfect for stock!" Eureka, my friends... Eureka. My Scrap Soup was born. Using all the ends of our veggies and throwing in leftover meat scraps (even washed egg shells from pastured chickens), I gathered those scraps into a huge pot and boiled it down to make my own veggie stock/bone broth. We then used that "Scrap Soup" in everything! We made rice with it, used it as soup base, added it to our stir frys, casseroles - even poached eggs and meat in it. You know that flavors become so rich and delicious when you replace water with stock, but our amazing homemade stock was even more rewarding to use because we were repurposing food we would have just thrown out otherwise. 

Now even though this is sort of a restaurant trick, I still use it at home as a way to "compost" things I've already paid for and repurpose them in a delicious way for my family. Many of us in the U.S. just don't realize how much actual food in our homes we throw away - from old produce to food scraps to leftovers. According to the EPA, we disposed of more than 35 million tons of food waste in 2013 alone. And about 95% of that food ends up in landfills or combustion facilities. To me, that's too much. Not when you've paid for those scraps - and that wilted kale or leftover rotisserie chicken can all be used again and made into some pretty darn tasty things! So, let's start with the basics of kitchen repurposing... instead of buying pre-made stock, I say it's time we all made some Scrap Soup.


Here's my Scrap Soup how-to:

1. Wash 'em up. Since we're using the entire vegetable, I recommend washing all your veg in a bowl with water and white or apple cider vinegar, which will disinfect the outer skin and help make sure there are no little buggies or extra dirt hiding in folds or leaves. We also like to wash our eggs before putting them away, because we use the shells in our stock.

2. Chop it up. Break down your vegetables like your normally would, but instead of tossing the scraps, gather them into a container and store in the freezer until you've accumulated enough to fill a large soup pot. As an eco-friendly gal, I'm a huge fan of our Full Circle Scrap Collector & Freezer Compost Bin! This plastic-free bin lets me keep all the scraps in one tidy place until I'm ready to make my stock. Plus, it can attach to a drawer to collect food waste and then I just pop it in the freezer. No flies, no odor - even if you don't make stock for weeks! It's really pretty amazing. It's really no-mess, no fuss because the bin is also dishwasher safe, so I even add my meat scraps to keep everything together.

3. Stock it up. Once you have enough scraps, add them to a large pot and lightly season. Cover the scraps with water and bring your stock to a boil.

4. Simmer time. After the initial boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for at least one hour. You can simmer the stock for as long as you'd like - the longer you simmer, the more intense the flavor will be. You'll notice that the scraps will really break down the more you simmer. 

5. Strain & drain. Once it’s done, let the stock cool. Then use a sieve or chinois to strain the liquid from the solids. Pour your stock into a reusable container (I like large liter/gallon sized mason jars to store mine). Now you can toss the macerated scraps and feel much better about your waste - you've already repurposed it, stretched your dollars, and have a beautiful, tasty new ingredient to use. Great job!

I'll be back in a few weeks with more kitchen tips and recipe ideas, but until then leave a comment here or on Facebook with your favorite uses for your"Scrap Soup”. And to grab your own Scrap Collector & Freezer Compost Bin, plan to come by our Denver store location for Grand Opening Weekend on July 16-17th. Can’t wait to see you there!